Lack of funds is stalling Nigeria’s effort to trace and recover its stolen monies, and prosecute former government officials responsible for the heist, the presidency has said.
A letter by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACC) to a United Kingdom-based anti-corruption organisation, Global Witness, soliciting assistance in raising funds, revealed that due to the fall in crude oil prices and the general economic downturn, the government lacked the needed funds to pursue recovery of loots.
The letter, dated February 15, 2016, was signed by the Executive Secretary of PACC, Bolaji Owasanoye, and directed to the Director of Global Witness, Simon Taylor.
It stated that the commitment of the government to tackle Boko Haram insurgency, fight corruption and improve the livelihood of Nigerians through job creation, was being hampered by dwindling oil revenue and mounting debts.
Mr. Owasanoye, a professor, argued that the economy could not be revived simply by improving revenue generation, without wiping out corruption and recovering money stolen former officials.
He said ongoing investigations into the diversion of arms funds by the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, and ex-military chiefs, show that significant amount of the money needed by the government to alleviate poverty were still in “the pockets and bank accounts of looters of public funds”.
He said intelligence reports and court rulings elsewhere have shown that there were more funds to be recovered from the immediate past Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, the fraudulent sale of OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by “a well-known money launderer”, Dan Etete, assets traced to former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, and former military ruler, Sani Abacha.
He however explained that due to the multi-jurisdiction of the cases, and the exorbitant charges of professionals such as lawyers, forensic financial investigators, and the ability of the suspected officials to use part of the alleged stolen fund to challenge the recovery of the fund, the government needed huge flow of resources.
“However, this poses a major problem. An empty treasury means that the money is not currently available for the government to engage these professionals due to the high fee that they charge.
“Even in cases where service will be given on contingency basis the initial seed fund required to start the process is not affordable. As a result, the action the government urgently seeks to take is being stymied,” Mr. Owasanoye wrote.
He argued that the government’s capacity to pursue all potential cases would be greatly boosted by the creation of an Assets Tracing, Recovery and Litigation Fund from which lawyers, investigators and forensic auditors will be paid.
He added that the government was also working on an arrangement where professionals engaged would be paid only on successes recorded.
“Once engaged, government can negotiate with the professionals to earn only success fees. Each professional engaged will secure its own litigation funders to support their briefs,” he stated.
Mr. Owasanoye further revealed that government would not have got as much traction as it does in its drive to prosecute ex-officials, and in the recovery of funds, if it had not received a combined financial lifeline of $5 million from international organisations such as the Ford foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the Foundation to Promote Open Society.
“This fund is supporting the mandate of the Presidency Advisory Committee on Corruption which is co-ordinating the anti-corruption effort of the government and promoting improved criminal justice administration.
“In light of the very dire economic situation of the moment this support and the proposed Assets Tracing, Recovery and Litigation Fund, is crucial to government ability to get recovery assets to support social welfare projects for the impoverished majority of Nigerians.
“Furthermore, funding support will enable government to use money that would have otherwise gone to professionals for assets recovery for other social protection projects,” he wrote.